Our understanding of race and human genetics has advanced considerably, yet these insights have not led to clear guidelines on the use of race in medicine. The result is ongoing conflict between the latest insights from population genetics and the clinical implementation of race.
For example, despite mounting evidence that race is not a reliable proxy for genetic difference, the belief that it is has become embedded, sometimes insidiously, within medical practice. One subtle insertion of race into medicine involves diagnostic algorithms and practice guidelines that adjust or “correct” their outputs on the basis of a patient’s race or ethnicity. Physicians use these algorithms to individualise risk assessment and guide clinical decisions. By embedding race into the basic data and decisions of health care, these algorithms propagate race-based medicine. Many of these race-adjusted algorithms guide decisions in ways that may direct more attention or resources to white patients than to members of racial and ethnic minorities.
To illustrate the potential dangers of such practices, Vyas et al. have compiled a partial list of race-adjusted algorithms.